Uzbekistan has shown remarkable growth in its transition from a centrally planned to a market based economy, with annual growth rates between 5 and 9 per cent since 2004. Innovation, namely fostering experimentation and collaboration between innovation stakeholders to find new ways for creating value, will be important to maintain sustainable growth. Uzbekistan has already demonstrated strong political commitment to incorporating innovation as a central component for future development: the Government established a new Ministry of Innovative Development in 2017; the Strategy for Innovative Development 2019-2021 outlines ambitious reforms to strengthen innovation institutions and mechanisms, especially with regards to science and research.
Pursuing these ambitious objectives will require addressing structural challenges, that arise in the pursuit of higher competitiveness and strengthened innovative development. Examples include the dominance of state-owned enterprises in the private sector, low levels of investment into research and development, underdeveloped linkages between industry and science, volatile levels of foreign direct investments and skills gaps in the domestic market.
In addition to market and governance reforms, transparent and efficient institutions, and coordination mechanisms, it is essential to ensure a certain flexibility to respond quickly to needs and opportunities. Such flexibility will allow Uzbekistan to create ecosystems where experimentation and momentum emerges, and innovative solutions diffuse much more systematically across the economy. All of this can help achieve a situation where innovation inputs effectively translate into innovation outputs.
On 5 March, government officials, experts, private sector representatives, the international donor community, and the UNECE secretariat joined the first stakeholder consultation held as part of UNECE’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Review of Uzbekistan. The virtual meeting launched the assessment process, discussed the project methodology and timeline, and defined the precise focus of the analysis.
UNECE Innovation for Sustainable Development Reviews assess the quality of innovation policies, institutions and processes of a country. UNECE Reviews elaborate actionable recommendations to stimulate innovation activity, to enhance the innovation capacity of innovation actors, and to improve the efficiency of the national innovation system.
The Review of Uzbekistan will look at opportunities for harnessing the power of innovation to accelerate growth and find new drivers for the economy, address reliance on commodity exports and support the diversification of the economy, and respond to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.
By providing recommendations to increase the productivity of the private sector and address skills mismatches in the labour market the Review can help the country build a solid foundation for sustainable growth and improve resilience to external shocks.
The Innovation for Sustainable Development Review of Uzbekistan will be published in early 2022.